Friday, 14 December 2018

Christmas presents

I am really difficult to buy presents for. My needs are simple, and can be supplied by Sports Direct and the takeaway round the corner. So what to get me for Xmas?

Mostly, books. During the year, I occasionally visit the Amazon web site, and when I see a book I like the look of, I add it to my Christmas list. So, by the end of the year, there's a good bunch of books, which I email to my daughters, and then haul away as gifts at Christmas time.

But ladysolly wanted to go for somethng better. After much thought, I decided that it would be nice to have another big monitor.

I have a Acer ET430K 43" LED 3840 by 2160 monitor, which I got last year. For Christmas. And I thought, it would be rather nice to have another one! So I went to Ebay, and found that the cheapest one was £503 (there were some nice 40 inch monitors for a bit less). Then I noticed that it was on sale from Scan, who I often buy things from. So I checked their web site, and, to my surprise, I could get it from there for somewhat less - £461, including delivery.

The one I've already used for a year, is really excellent, and I can recommend it, although you might need to upgrade your video card to get the full resolution. It means that I have a truly huge screen space, so have have a lot of windows open on any of the workspaces.

Merry Christmas!

The Walking Dead

Theresa May won the leadership challenge, 200 against 117. It's a pyrrhic victory.

So the situation now, is that we have  PM who doesn't have the full confidence of her party. And she's said that she won't lead the party into the next election. So she's a lame duck.

However, the rules of the party say that there can't be another leadership challenge for 12 months. So she's armour plated. An armour plated zombie lame duck.

And we still have the same Brexit problems that we had last week.

So May is kicking the can down the road a bit more; the parliamentary vote on the May Brexit plan, won't happen until after Christmas. And January is two months before March. Meanwhile she's touring Europe in the forlorn hope that the deal that has been laboriously agreed, can be renegotiated. No chance.

O Albion, what will become of thee?

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

All change!

Parliament has ruled that they get to see the whole legal advice on Brexit, not just the summary. Why is this a big deal? Because the government has been fighting tooth and nail to stop that happening, so there must be something juicy there!

And in another news item, an EU legal bigwig has said that if we want, we can change our minds about Brexit, which certainly wasn't clear before.

So when parliament votes next week against the May plan (and it looks like it will) what then?

May plan B? Unlikely.
Crash out?  I doubt if there's a majority for that either.

So how now, can the government kick the can down the road?

Sharpen your pencil - I feel another referendum coming on.

Friday, 30 November 2018

Barclays Merchant Services charges

BMS changed their charging system a few months ago. When I got the first bill from their new system, it was immediately obvious to me, by comparing it with my previous bill, that it was very wrong.

For example, in the past, I've been paying them about £50 per month in VAT charges, and now, suddenly, it was £5.

So I phoned them, and told them about that, and the other two obvious errors.

It took them about three months, and then they agreed with me about the VAT, and sent me a humungous refund on that (going back for years), which (of course) went straght to HMRC. But also a "sorry about that" compensation payment, plus "lost interest", which was nice to have.


But they didn't do anything about the other two issues.

Today, I got two letters from them.

One of them was to tell me that "due to a technical issue" they forgot to biill me £20 management fee per month. They aren't going to charge me for the back payments.

Win! Win!!

The other letter was to tell me that they've been charging me 1% for transactions, plus £0.10 per transaction, and it should have only been the 1%. So they are going to refund me a four figure sum for this cockup.

Win! Win!! Win!!!

I'm not going to complain about this, or make any suggestions to them about it, but I will tell you, confidentially, and hoping that you dno't mention it to them, make a modest proposal.

Test your software before you inflict it on your customers. Do a trial billing run, compare the amounts with what you charged last month, and when you notice that an item is twice as big as it was last month, try to work out why.

And some advice for their customers. I feel sure that I'm not the only one who has had the VAT cockup, but if you're also affected, then you should complain, and ask for compensation and lost interest. And as a general rule - compare your bill for the month with last month. Because they obviously don't.

Changing my epdg Barclaycard password

This has been fraught for a long time. I wasn't able to do it with Firefox or Chrome, but it used to let me do it with Opera. I have no idea why. But yesterday, when I went to use it, it told me that my current password will expire in three days, would I like to change it?

Yes, I would, I don't like leaving things until it's too late.

So I clicked on the link. It wanted my old password, and my new password twice, and then I clicked on Submit. Nothing happened. And the password hadn't changed. I tried it with Firefox, then with Chrome. No joy. Then I tried it on another computer. Still no luck.

So I phoned for tech support  0333 202 7930. The nice lady suggested that I email to with a screen shot. So I did that.

I got a reply very quickly. They suggested that I type the new password instead of copy-pasting it. Why did I copy-paste it? Because their password has to be at least one capital letter, at least one digit, at least one special character and at least one lowercase. And at least 12 characters long. And changed every month. Do they seriously think that I'll be able to remember that? So of course I use a password manager. They also made another suggestion, but that didn't help.

So I tried typing this long and tedious password instead of copy-pasting. And it almost worked! This time, their page acknowledged that the password was strong (it hadn't said anything about it before) and that the second time I typed the new password, it was the same as the first. Result! But when I clicked on Submit, again it didn't change the password.

So I did another tech support call.

This time she suggested that I ask for a temporary password. The problem with that, I thought, will be that this temporary password gives me one login. So if I try to change the password and it still won't change, that's it, and I'm left with requesting a temporary password each time I want to use their system.

Still.  I might as well try it, my existing password will be nullified soon anyway. So I did.

And it let me change my password.

Because the password change page after a temporary password, is different from the normal password change page.

So what in future? Well, if I pretend that I've lost my password, then it'll email me a new temporary pssword, and I'll be able to change it from there.

What a performance! 

And the cream of the joke? Their idiotic system is what forces everyone to use a password manager, which for many people will be "write it on a post-it note" which is far less secure than just have a fairly simple password. And if you want it to be secure?


That's what Barclays Banking online uses, with a little calculator-like gizmo that gives me a new code each time. And even HMRC use 2FA, via my mobile phone.


Sunday, 25 November 2018

Alley cat

A long long time ago, I acquired a copy of a game called "Alley Cat". It was a fairly simple game, running under Dos. But when I showed it to my daughters, who were at that time aged several, they loved it, and the beep-beep tune of Alley Cat could be heard very frequently.

Something made me think of it today, and I used Google, And to no great surprise, it's available now. You can run it via your browser.

So, knowing that they read my blog occasionally, I thought I'd mention it here.

Whither Brexit?

Now that the Mogg Coup (it isn't a coup, don't call it a coup) has failed, May will be PM for the foreseeable future. So it's the May Plan for Brexit. Or not.

So, maybe the EU will accept it (except, what about Gibraltar? What about Northern Ireland?) or maybe we'll continue to ask for something they can't accept. But will parliament accept it?

It looks to me like parliament is not going to accept the May Plan. There doesn't seem to be enough votes for it. If that happens, then what?

That leave two possibilities. Leave without a deal ("Crash out") or ask to change our minds ("Remain").

Who decides?

What if we then take a vote in parliament for "Crash out" and that's rejected?

Oh no! A "people's vote", which is what we seem to be calling a "referendum" theese days, because "referendum" is a four syllable latinate word, where's "people's vote" is Anglo-saxon.
But what else is there, at that point? Except that it'll probably be too late to organise, because it'll take a long time to squabble over whether there shoulf be three choices (May, Crash, Remain) or two (Crash, Remain). And I can't see how May could be a possibility because, in that scenario, it's already been rejected by parliament.

So we vote between Crash out and Remain. And now that we've seen how well our government has handled Brexit, why would we think they could handle Crash out?

And after we vote Remain, the EU says "Yes, but not with the favourable terms that Thatcher got for you"

Don't look at me. I voted Remain in 2016, 2 1/2 years ago.